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TalkTalk have created this exclusive biography of Keanu Reeves - we believe it to be the most comprehensive on the web
Few film stars, and very few who earn $15 million per movie, have suffered as many critical batterings as Keanu Reeves. They've usually been fierce, too, contending that Reeves is so wooden, so expressionless that he must rank amongst the worst actors in Hollywood. It seems so unfair. After all, he first broke through playing a succession of alienated teenagers, culminating with the arch dumbo Ted "Theodore" Logan in Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure. You have to think that the opinions of Reeves' critics are based more on his characters than his performances. They think he's some blockheaded Valley Boy who struck gold - in fact, he's not even American.
Add to this the rest of his CV. Reeves has worked with many of cinema's finest directors - Bertolucci, Coppola, Kenneth Branagh, Gus Van Sant, Lawrence Kasdan, Ron Howard, Stephen Frears, not to mention action greats like Kathryn Bigelow, Andrew Davis and Jan De Bont. He's acted alongside Al Pacino, Cate Blanchett, Gene Hackman, Denzel Washington, Anthony Hopkins, William Hurt, John Malkovich, Glenn Close, Dianne Wiest. If he was as bad as some say, how could he ever have built up a list like this? And if your answer to that question is "Well, he's good-looking, isn't he?" you clearly haven't been watching his progress. The guy works hard, he's taken risks right from the start, and he's delivered some startling performances along the way. Read on, and judge for yourself.
He was born Keanu Charles Reeves on the 2nd of September, 1964, in Beirut. His father Samuel Nowlin Reeves, a part-Chinese part-Hawaiian geologist had married English showgirl Patricia Taylor there, the couple having met after he'd seen her performing at a nightclub. His name, Keanu, is Hawaiian for "cool breeze over the mountains". Well, literally-speaking it means "the coolness", but the fancy extension is forgivable. We all need a little more poetry in our lives, don't we?
His parents' marriage would not last for long. Within a couple of years of Keanu's birth, they'd moved to Australia, had a daughter (Kim) and divorced. Samuel would return to Hawaii, while Patricia would take the kids to New York. Here she would meet and marry the stage and film director Paul Aaron (he'd later direct Chuck Norris in Force Of One and Glenn Close in Maxie), who'd shift the family to Toronto, where they'd all take Canadian citizenship. Sadly, this marriage wouldn't last either, with Patricia later marrying rock promoter Robert Miller, who'd give Keanu a half-sister, Karina. He'd also help Patricia into a new career as a costume designer for pop stars such as David Bowie and Dolly Parton. Later still would come fourth husband Jack Bond, owner of a hair salon, though she'd divorce him, too, in 1994.
Growing up in the bohemian section of Toronto, Keanu spent the years between kindergarten and 8th Grade at Jesse Ketchum Public School. After that, things became a little more complicated. Not keen on academic pursuits, he much preferred sports to lessons, particularly ice hockey. Excelling as goalkeeper, he became known as "The Wall" and would be voted his school's MVP. His various stepfathers would make his upbringing more interesting than the norm - the young Keanu would attend Jewish summer camp and wrestle with Alice Cooper.
There'd also be Drama. As said, Keanu was not a happy bunny in class. Teachers would recall him forever forgetting his books or homework. When called up on it, he'd just smile and go fetch them. Indeed later, with his usual self-deprecation, he'd jokingly comment "I'm a meat-head man. You've got smart people and you've got dumb people. I just happen to be dumb". Instead, he found true pleasure in the adrenaline of live performance. By 14, he'd already decided on a theatrical career, and began to seek work in adverts and shows on Canadian TV. In 1979, he made his professional acting debut in Hanging In, a comedy set in a youth counselling centre. He played a tough street kid, his first line on screen being "Hey, lady, can I use the shower?"
By the next year he'd also scored a high-profile part dancing in a Coke ad. The company would employ him again in 1983 when he played a youngster whose disappointment at losing a bike race is tempered when his beloved father hands him a Coke. There'd also be an appearance on behalf of Kellogg's. Laying out a long breakfast table, Keanu would set out boxes of corn flakes then, overcome by temptation, would pour himself a bowl and eat them with near-orgasmic delight. This would be his first major paycheque.
Of course, this career would not make normal classes any more interesting for the young boy and he'd attend no fewer than four different High Schools, including La Salle and the Toronto School for the Performing Arts. Finally dropping out at 17, he began to pursue a theatrical career in earnest, supporting himself by sharpening ice skates and working as a pasta chef and tree cutter. He made his stage debut proper in a workshop production called For Adults Only, based on the real-life abduction of young women in Toronto. Next came another student show when he played a preppy fellow in Holding Someone Holding Me, a production put on in a converted downtown morgue. There'd also be a minor production of The Crucible, he'd play Mercutio in Romeo And Juliet and he'd co-host one season of kids' show Going Great, alongside Megan Follows, who'd later score an ongoing TV hit as Anne of Green Gables.
1984 brought a breakthrough of sorts. After appearing once more as a young thug in Night Heat, and yet again in The Prodigal, he took on a play called Wolfboy at Toronto's Passe Muraille Theatre. Here he played suicidal teenager, Bernie, who's sent to a psychiatric hospital where he's seduced by a disturbed male prostitute who thinks he's a wolf. The play caused a major stir with its homoerotic content (including an oiled Keanu doing press-ups in his boxer shorts), and would win Reeves his Equity card.
Now his two obsessions - acting and hockey - combined to present an international screen debut. This was in Youngblood, where Rob Lowe played a farm boy who dreams of making it in the Canadian hockey leagues - Keanu appearing as Heaver, a member of the team he tries to join, a team also featuring Patrick Swayze.
At last he was ready for his assault on the big-time. In his old Volvo he took off for Hollywood, with $3000 and Paul Aaron's address in his pocket. Though an agent would persuade him to briefly change his name to the less-exotic KC, work would come quickly. And not just any work, as Reeves would make his American film debut in one of the most important movies of the Eighties - River's Edge (he'd made his US TV debut in a failed pilot called Fast Food). This was directed by Tim Hunter, who'd earlier written Over The Edge, a study of punky alienation featuring a pumping contemporary soundtrack and starring Matt Dillon. River's Edge used many of the same tactics but was a much bleaker piece. Here a bunch of slacker school kids discover that one of their number, Samson (Daniel Roebuck) has killed his girlfriend and left her body lying beside the river. Of course, they should call the police, but denim-clad Keanu, his responsible girlfriend Ione Skye and the rest are all persuaded by Crispin Glover's Layne to try to save Samson. Thus, as Layne screams around listening to Slayer in his battered motor and enlisting the help of local freak Dennis Hopper, they're all dragged deeper and deeper into the mess.
Many found the kids' split loyalties and amoral disinterest to be deeply disturbing, and River's Edge - arriving slap-bang in the middle of America's slacker movement - became a major Gen X cult hit. Everyone involved was now hot property and Keanu would appear on screen eight times in 1986. Most of this was TV movie work, but it was good and varied. He had a brief role in Act Of Vengeance where Charles Bronson played a miner battling corruption within his union in 1969. Young Again, a forerunner of Tom Hanks' Big, saw 40-year-old businessman Robert Urich magically granted his one wish - to be 17 once more - and transformed into Keanu. Under The Influence concerned a family ravaged by a father's alcoholism, Keanu playing the younger son, dabbling with drink but pulling away before he follows dad Andy Griffith down the slippery slope.
Next came a remake of Babes In Toyland where Drew Barrymore, forced to look after her siblings and losing her innocence too soon, suffers an accident and finds herself in Toyland and (helped by Keanu's Jack-Be-Nimble) tries to save Mary Contrary from a disastrous marriage to evil-hearted Barnaby Barnacle. Mary would be played by Jill Schoelen, with whom Keanu would become romantically involved. She'd later be briefly engaged to Brad Pitt.
Then there would be Flying, where he played a goofy schoolboy outsider, keen to get it together with Olivia D'Abo, a girl attempting to overcome a knee injury and make it onto the gym team. And 1986 would end with Keanu starring alongside Kiefer Sutherland and Billy Zane in Brotherhood Of Justice. Here he was a school kid who, along with others sick of the drugs and violence around them, forms a secret vigilante gang that rapidly goes out of control.
River's Edge had given him a foothold in cinema, despite his turning down the Charlie Sheen role in Platoon due to the excessive violence, and 1988 saw him steady his position. In the wacky teen comedy The Night Before he starred as goofy Winston Connelly, a school geek who, due to a bet gone wrong, finds himself taking stuck-up pretty girl Lori Loughlin (who'd earlier appeared in Brotherhood Of Justice) to the prom. Unfortunately, he gets drunk and involved with pimps, and loses his wallet, his girl and his dad's car.
Light years away from this was Permanent Record where a scholarship-winning high school kid with everything going for him decides to jump off a cliff. Everyone is naturally mystified and traumatised, Keanu standing out as a friend who was learning guitar from the dead man. The scene where - drunk, furious and wracked with guilt - he confronts the suicide's brother and father was especially moving, and proof positive that Reeves was an actor of considerable potential. He continued the disturbed teen theme with comedy The Prince Of Pennsylvania where, having witnessed mum Bonnie Bedelia cheating on his dreamer dad Fred Ward, he gets embroiled in a plot to kidnap Ward with kooky older woman Amy Madigan.
Now he moved up a gear by appearing as Chevalier Danceny in Stephen Frears' Dangerous Liaisons. An epic of deceit and desire, this saw Glenn Close and John Malkovich as decadent French aristocrats playing ruinous games with sex and psychology. When Close persuades Malkovich to seduce virginal Uma Thurman to get back at an ex-lover about to marry the young girl, she adds interest by introducing impoverished music teacher Danceny to the fray. But disaster looms when Malkovich does the unthinkable and falls in love with Michelle Pfeiffer, another of his victims. An infuriated Close then sets in motion a string of events leading to a deadly dual between Keanu and Malkovich.
Dangerous Liaisons showed Keanu's determination to succeed as a "serious" actor as, to make it, he turned down the lead in The Fly 2 and took a 90% paycut. It also began a string of major hits for Reeves. Next came Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure, the teen comedy that, despite the variety of his roles thus far, would seal his reputation for years to come. Here Keanu played Ted "Theodore" Logan, son of a police chief in the valley and best friend of Alex Winter's Bill S. Preston Esquire. The boys are a dopey pair, far more interested in bodacious babes and heavy metal than schoolwork and are appalled when Ted's father threatens to send his son to military academy if they don't pass their upcoming history exam, for which they must deliver an A-graded presentation. Fortunately, they're visited by Rufus, a fellow from the future, who lends them his time-travelling phone-booth, allowing them to round up the likes of Billy The Kid, Socrates, Abraham Lincoln, Napoleon and Beethoven and bring them back to present-day San Dimas, along with some "historical babes".
Bill And Ted was a wacky classic, a cross between Time Bandits and Wayne's World. Brilliantly written and performed, it was a huge hit that launched a long (and increasingly awful) succession of California teen comedies. Reeves moved on to Ron Howard's Parenthood, a feel-good comedy involving the extended family of couple Steve Martin and Mary Steenburgen and their problems with kids of all ages. Once more Keanu delivered a spot-on performance as Tod Hawkes, a drag-racing slacker who marries the teenage daughter of Martin's sister Dianne Wiest. She's naturally horrified - until Reeves proves to be a helpful male influence on her "weird" young son, Joaquin Phoenix.
Now able to alternate between big budget movies and artier fare, Keanu continued on his learning curve with some courage. Having returned to the stage to perform in The Tempest, he appeared in an American Playhouse production of Life Under Water, as a disaffected teen who runs away from home and moves in with two girls, one being Sarah Jessica Parker. Though in his mid-twenties, his face and by-now expert mannerisms still allowed him to play a moody adolescent with some aplomb - but this, aside from the inevitable Bill And Ted sequel, would be the last time he did it.
It wasn't just his age that brought about this change. Having been acting for over a decade, Reeves was not happy to find himself cast in the minds of many as a mopey, lunkheaded teen. Many, in fact, believed that the success of Bill and Ted was partly down to Keanu and Alex Winter simply playing themselves. "I used to have nightmares", said Reeves later "that they would put %u2018He played Ted' on my tombstone". To break the pattern, he strove to vary his roles so drastically no one could deny his efforts.
He began with two black comedies. First, I Love You To Death. Here Tracey Ullman wants to off her cheating husband Kevin Kline, and gets gofer River Phoenix to hire a hit man. Unfortunately, he engages bumbling, bungling dopehead brothers Keanu and William Hurt who proceed to hilariously mess everything up. After this came Aunt Julia And The Scriptwriter where Keanu played a radio station employee who engages in an affair with long-lost aunt Barbara Hershey only to find radio dramatist Peter Falk writing about their lives in his popular soap opera. Things get double-weird when Falk starts to predict the future.
Reeves is actually seen by many these days as a bona fide action star but, strangely, he's only ever made four such pictures (not including Matrix sequels). It's just that three of them were such enormous hits. The first of these came now, in 1991, with Point Break. Directed by Kathryn "Near Dark" Bigelow, this saw Keanu as FBI agent Johnny Utah, infiltrating an extreme sports gang suspecting of armed robbery. Head of the gang is Bodhi, played by Patrick Swayze (Keanu's Youngblood co-star) who, it turns out, is stealing money to fund his quest for spiritual enlightenment. Thus the film became a neat combination of cod philosophy and some of the most stirring action sequences ever shot. The skydiving scenes in particular were stunning and surely brought about the making of both Drop Zone and Terminal Velocity.
A drop in pace was inevitable. After a spot as James Dean in Paula Abdul's Rush Rush video came a Bill And Ted sequel with some wonderfully amusing passages, including a Seventh Seal spoof that saw the hapless duo playing Twister with Death. Then came a massive turnaround as Reeves subverted his action hero/ Valley boy persona with Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho. This took him right back to his pro stage debut in Wolfboy, with Keanu and River Phoenix playing young male prostitutes in an exhilarating rewrite of Shakespeare's Henry IV. It was slow and arty, but also dreamy and mesmerising, a treatise on "the ridiculousness of experience".
Having spent a while being menaced by Gary Oldman and rolling around with semi-clad vampires in Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula, Reeves moved on to more Shakespeare with Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing. Here, as the baleful Don John trying to destroy the sweet affair between Kate Beckinsale and Robert Sean Leonard, he revealed an impressive meanness that would later be exhibited in all its black glory in The Gift.
After brief cameos in Alex Winter's crazy comedy Freaked (as Ortiz the Dog Boy) and Gus Van Sant's Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, Keanu continued to widen his experience by taking on Bertolucci's Little Buddha. Here a Seattle family are told that their son may be the reincarnation of a revered Buddhist monk, the story being intercut with the ancient tale of Prince Siddharta's passage to enlightenment and emergence as the Buddha - Keanu doing sterling work as the passive but spiritually ambitious Prince.
Next came his second big action hit, Speed, where he played Jack Traven, a bomb squad cop chasing maniac Dennis Hopper (earlier a maniac in Keanu's breakthrough River's Edge). Though the part had been turned down by Tom Cruise, Bruce Willis, Tom Hanks, Johnny Depp and even William and Stephen Baldwin, Reeves saw something in it, and how right he was. With Sandra Bullock driving a bus that will explode if it drops below 50mph, it was a superior thriller and a massive money-maker.
Sadly, unlike Point Break, Speed did not launch Reeves into a period of particularly interesting work. Indeed, it was Failure Time. First came Johnny Mnemonic, written by William "Neuromancer" Gibson, where Keanu played a courier with a hard-drive in his head, a hard-drive carrying vital information that will kill him if it's not downloaded quickly. It was a great idea, there was a cool cast including Ice-T, Henry Rollins and Beat Takeshi, but it failed to hit midway on the Thrillometer. His next action attempt, too, wouldn't hit the mark. In Chain Reaction, he and Rachel Weisz played researchers on a project that discovers a cheap, pollution-free fuel. Bad news for many powers-that-be. And so they find themselves framed for murder and pursued relentlessly by just about everyone.
At this stage even his indie efforts weren't really up to scratch. The sappy romance A Walk In The Clouds saw him as an unhappily married man who decides to help a pregnant Mexican girl by pretending to be her husband. The grungey, sleazy Feeling Minnesota had him running off with his manipulative brother's wife (Cameron Diaz) and being tailed by a private dick. Then came the Beat Generation drama The Last Time I Committed Suicide where he played Neal Cassady's drunken, pool-playing buddy. It was all good practice, but generally half-baked stuff.
After three years without a hit, many would have taken the easy option and reprised an earlier success. But, unlike Sandra Bullock, Keanu now turned down Speed 2 (he'd earlier nixed the Val Kilmer part in Heat to play Hamlet onstage - what does that say about his thespian ambitions?) and instead took on Al Pacino in The Devil's Advocate, originally to have starred Brad Pitt. Here Keanu played a sharp Florida lawyer headhunted by Pacino's New York firm and gradually drawn into a life of vanity and greed, all the while ignoring his young wife Charlize Theron, who tries to persuade him to return south, then begins to see visions and turns suicidal. Pacino, meanwhile, is turning out to be something far worse than a mere lawyer. It was a tough part for Reeves. Not only did he have to engage in some harrowing emotional scenes with Theron, but also had to face Pacino at his most flamboyant. He managed both.
The following year, 1998, saw Reeves take a cameo in the indie feminist road movie Me And Will. This time, though, he was appearing with his band, Dogstar. This was an outfit he'd formed in 1993 with Bret Domrose and Robert Mailhouse, Keanu providing bass. They'd put out an album, Our Little Visionary, in 1996, and would release a follow-up, Happy Ending, in 2000. And this was no scrappy ego-trip, either. At one point the band would actually support Bon Jovi.
The rest of 1998 was spent preparing for and filming what would be one of 1999's biggest hits - The Matrix. Keanu took the lead after Ewan McGregor and Will Smith turned it down - Keanu not having enjoyed a hit since Speed five years before - and, as if to prove his worth, threw himself into the work, spending four months learning martial arts. The movie had him as Thomas A. Anderson, a software author who's a hacker on the sly. Recruited by cyber rebels led by Laurence Fishburne, he discovers that the whole world is just a virtual reality designed to keep people obedient to the system. And he, as his alter-ego Neo, is The One, the messiah who must defeat the evil Agents and save humanity.
The Matrix was a special-effects spectacular, particularly impressive in its "bullet-time" sequences where Keanu literally bent over backwards to avoid being shot. And, as said, despite its non-bankable star, it was a huge hit. Costing $60 million to make, it took in $73 million in its first two weeks. Keanu would take $10 million for his involvement, plus an incredible $35 million box office percentage. But 1999 wasn't all good for Keanu. At Christmas, his longtime girlfriend Jennifer Syme (a former assistant to David Lynch who'd appeared as Junkie Girl in Lost Highway) produced a stillborn baby girl. And this was not the end of the tragedy. In 2001, while estranged from Reeves, Syme was killed when her Cherokee jeep crashed on LA's Highway 101, flipping over and sending Jennifer through the windscreen. Keanu would stay close to her mother, helping her out financially in a virulent legal dispute with neighbours.
After The Matrix, Keanu went back into training for sports comedy The Replacements, this time learning to be a football quarterback. Based on the 1987 players' strike, the movie had Gene Hackman as a coach who must put together a pick-up side to keep the season going. Naturally, he can only find loose cannon Keanu and a gang of untrustworthy misfits. It was a reasonable effort and once more proved Reeves' commitment to his craft - he actually took a big drop in his fee so Hackman could be hired. After all, everyone can learn a thing or two from Gene Hackman.
Now Keanu had the good sense to revisit the dark places he explored to such effect in Much Ado About Nothing. In The Watcher, he played a serial killer who sends cop James Spader into a breakdown, then follows him from LA to Chicago to continue the bad work. It was interesting stuff in that Reeves' killer needed his pursuer so badly, but it actually wasn't a film that Keanu wanted to make. Once he had fulfilled his contract (and kept his mouth shut for the legally required period), he revealed that he'd agreed to make the movie for scale as the part was small and fascinating. But then the part was enlarged and Reeves found himself being paid millions less than co-stars Spader and Marisa Tomei. Beyond this, he claimed that it was actually a friend of his who'd signed the contract, forging Reeves' signature. Unfortunately, fearing the same kind of trouble Kim Basinger suffered when she pulled out of Boxing Helena, he just had to go through with it.
No worries - his next picture was genuinely excellent. In The Gift, written by Billy Bob Thornton and directed by Sam Raimi, Cate Blanchett played a card-reader and wise country woman who gives good and kind advice to the locals, including Hilary Swank who's getting badly beaten by husband Keanu. When she advises Swank to leave him, he threatens her and her children and it all gets worse when country club girl Katie Holmes is murdered and Blanchett "sees" the body in Reeves' pond. The film was packed with fine performances, especially from Blanchett and Giovanni Ribisi, but Reeves outshone them all. His Donnie Barksdale was cruel and vicious, but far from a one-dimensional villain. Reeves had actually visited counsellors to understand the abusive character, and had spent three weeks driving around Georgia. Really, the performance could easily have been Oscar-nominated.
Keanu's rollercoaster career continued with Sweet November, a remake of a 1968 Sandy Dennis vehicle. Here he was reunited with Charlize Theron when he played a hard-nosed ad-man picked up by a bohemian girl who, it turns out, takes men into her life for a single month in order to improve them. It sounds kooky, it sounds romantic, but in fact it was nauseatingly sentimental, particularly when Theron is found to be dying. Better was Hardball, where Reeves played a gambler and drinker in need of money fast. A friend loans it to him, as long as he agrees to coach a team of dysfunctional kids in the Chicago Housing Authority baseball league. Amazingly, given the movie's predictability, it actually went to Number One for two weeks.
So now Keanu was hitting top spot with even his smaller movies. Yet once again the good news would be balanced by bad. Not only was Jennifer Symes killed, but Aaliyah too, one of his co-stars in the upcoming Matrix sequel. Then he almost died himself when, on a demon ride (no lights) through Topanga Canyon, he hit the mountain side, broke several ribs and ruptured his spleen. When he was on the stretcher, one paramedic let one end drop to the ground. "It made me laugh", said Keanu later "but I couldn't breathe".
Then there was the family. For a while Keanu's father had being trying to get in touch. He hadn't seen his son in 25 years and claimed to be living on food stamps with Keanu's grandmother. Keanu remained unmoved. After all, it had been 25 years and, beyond this, in 1992 Samuel had been jailed for ten years for selling heroin (he served two). Then there was his sister Kim. Diagnosed with leukaemia years before, now her condition worsened. In December 2002, Keanu would leave the set of The Matrix to take her to Hawaii, keeping her in absolute luxury.
And now came The Matrix sequel. Indeed, two sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions having been filmed back to back. Having given up a payment of around $38 million to get the movies made (one battle sequence alone cost $40 million), Keanu returned as Neo, now with only 72 hours to prevent 250,000 probes from discovering Zion and destroying the last human city. Both released in 2003, the Matrix movies would be enormo-hits, even by Reeves extraordinary standards. And now his decision to take a percentage cut instead of an upfront fee really paid off. Conservative estimates claimed he made at least $206 million from the Matrix trilogy, maybe as much as $330 million. At this point, he was the highest-paid actor in the world.
Following Matrix 2 and 3, he ended 2003 in a very different movie, Something's Gotta Give. This saw Jack Nicholson as an aging music biz Lothario who's dating a far younger Amanda Peet. She takes him for a romantic weekend at the Hamptons home of her playwright mother Diane Keaton, only to find mum's actually there. Nicholson has a long-overdue heart attack and is rushed to hospital, where he's seen by straight-laced and caring doctor Keanu. And now the complications begin, as Reeves gets the hots for Keaton, who in turn begins to fall for the now-vulnerable Nicholson. Usually, it's easy to see why women would fall for Nicholson, but this time, with Keanu so moral, so charming, so gallant, the competition would be stiff in more ways than one.
Having begun a relationship with actress Autumn Macintosh (rekindling the sparks of a brief fling in the early Nineties) and been awarded a star on Hollywood's Walk Of Fame, Keanu reappeared on our screens in 2005 in two wildly varying productions. First came Thumbsucker, a resolutely indie piece featuring a teenager who, as the title suggests, still sucks his thumb - for comfort and as an aid to concentration. His father, naturally, disapproves of this shameful sissiness and so the boy is sent to Keanu, in a comic turn as an orthodontist-come-New Age guru, who offers to hypnotize him but wonders what it will cost the boy. Meanwhile, mum Tilda Swinton is kicking on with work at a celebrity rehab centre that's just admitted Benjamin Bratt. The movie was clearly destined for major cult status.
A world away from cultdom would be the blockbuster Constantine, which would see Reeves remain with Tilda Swinton and also reunite with Rachel Weisz for the first time since Chain Reaction. Based on the comic book Hellblazer, this would see Keanu as the chain-smoking, depressive supernatural detective John Constantine, a man who can see the angels and demons who walk among us. He's got lung cancer, he's doomed to Hell for an earlier suicide attempt (he's actually already been there once) and must win his place in Heaven by battling against evil, here teaming up with LA cop Weisz in an adventure involving the Spear of Destiny (the one they stabbed Jesus with) and the Devil Himself. Reeves, familiar with this territory after the Matrix, made Constantine deliberately, manically morose, as befitted a man in his position, and it was perhaps the film's darkness that prevented it becoming the mega-hit its $100 million budget demanded.
Now the man to call for sci-fi epics, 2006 would see Reeves in A Scanner Darkly, written by Philip K Dick and directed by Richard Linklater. This would be even darker than Constantine, with Keanu inhabiting a future world where the war against drugs has been lost. Thus, though working as an undercover cop, he's also addicted to Substance D, a drug that causes its users to suffer split personality disorders. And so Keanu's chasing a notorious dealer who is, in fact, Keanu as well. With state-of-the-art animation, an intense feeling of paranoia and the warped hallucingenics of a bad trip, the movie would bravely attempt to match such Dick adaptations as Blade Runner, Minority Report and Total Recall.
With rumours abounding that he'd now star in The Night Watchman, written by James Ellroy and directed by Spike Lee, where a cop accused of corruption fights for redemption, Reeves instead stepped back into romantic comedy with The Lake House. This, a remake of the 2000 South Korean hit Siworae, would see Keanu reunite with Speed queen Sandra Bullock, Bullock playing a doctor moving out of a glass house by a lake and Reeves playing an architect moving in. Both are troubled, Reeves in particular being overshadowed by architect dad Christopher Plummer, but they begin a relationship via letters and fall in love, their only problem being that he thinks it's 2004 while she's existing in 2006.
Having proved that he's both an eminently bankable action star and, after Constantine and Something's Gotta Give, a fine actor of wide scope, Keanu Reeves is sitting pretty. Still living in Toronto (he's never taken American citizenship), he shuns the limelight, preferring instead to surf, ballroom dance, and ride both horses and his beloved Norton Combat Commando. He works hard and is always self-deprecating, once being quoted as saying "I'm sorry my existence is not very noble or sublime". He wasn't quite right in that. Given his refusal to play the star-game, his obvious efforts at self-improvement and a growing string of fine performances, the man has a nobility all of his own.